The defeat by Rangers at the start of the week was a disappointment, according to Hibernian manager Alan Stubbs but he does not consider it a derailment.
His men had built up a significant head of steam ahead of that top-of-the-table clash and, as they prepare to welcome Raith Rovers to Easter Road tomorrow, he sees no reason why they cannot do that again.
They may have passed up the chance to assume the lead in the Championship but Stubbs knows that nothing significant was won or lost.
“No, we looked at it purely as a game where there could be three outcomes,” he said. “What happened was the one outcome we didn’t want to happen. We wanted either to get a win or second to that a draw. But when you look at the bigger picture, there has not been a huge amount of impact from the result.
“We are three points behind them and, if someone had offered me this position before a ball was kicked [in the summer], we’d have snapped their hands off.”
It wasn’t so long ago that Hibs were 11 points behind and being written off by most as serious title contenders but by picking up points with metronomic regularity, piecing together a 17-match unbeaten run while their Govan rivals stuttered through the past couple of months, they had been applying concerted pressure. Stubbs believes his men can soon crank up that tension again, simply by remembering what they had been doing so well and offering their rivals no margin for errors of their own.
“Am I happy we got beaten? No. Am I happy with where we are? Yes. I’m content with where we are right now, we are in a really good position,” he said. “And Monday’s result is not going to have any impact on us whatsoever.
“They’re aware of what we want to achieve. But that’s not the topic of conversation every day. We do take one game at a time. Monday is done and dusted and now we have an opportunity on Saturday against Raith which will be another difficult test, they all are in different ways. But it’s a chance for us to get back on track and go on another run.
“First of all, we have to do what we did in the previous 17 games. On Monday we made errors that we got punished for. And when you are playing the top teams you have to be 100 per cent focused and on your mettle no matter what. But we made a couple of errors which contributed to us conceding goals and when you do that, especially at a hostile and raucous Ibrox, it can be intimidating.”
Tomorrow he will be without Fraser Fyvie, who was retrospectively punished after he reacted foolishly to Andy Halliday kicking out and then catching him with a shoulder barge. Feigning a facial injury despite the lack of contact in that area has left the midfielder shamefaced and sidelined for two matches, also missing out on next week’s Scottish Cup tie with the Kirkcaldy club.
But there should be reinforcements arriving this month, with the transfer window threatening to throw up another few twists and turns in the promotion drama
“Well I have laid my cards on the table, I have said what we are going to do,” said Stubbs. “We’ve done half of it and we’ll bring another defender in. What happens after that? You’ll have to keep guessing.
They have already brought in striker Chris Dagnall on loan until the end of the season as they try to keep up an unrelenting pace in the final run-in.
But he said he does not know where the speculation linking Leon Osman with a move north originated. “God knows! I actually saw that, he was mentioned and Hibbo [Tony Hibbert] at one point as well and there have been other names mentioned. But I am not going to talk about players at other clubs. I know Ozzy really well, he’s a good friend as well as an ex-team-mate. But he wouldn’t get in this team anyway! He came on for Everton on Saturday and I think his focus is clearly at Everton.”
The hope is Jason Cummings is equally focused but on seeing out the campaign at Hibs. The striker has brought a swagger and goals, including a belter against Rangers, to the side and their title push and that has attracted admiring glances from other clubs and praise from his own gaffer, who wants to retain his services and says that no formal enquiries have been forthcoming thus far.
“Not that I know of, but the window isn’t open yet so I wouldn’t expect any,” said Stubbs. “He’s doing very, very well and I thought some of his touches and some of his movement on Monday was very, very good. We just didn’t get the ball to him enough. But it wasn’t a bad finish.”